Out social media influencer and makeup guru James Charles — the first male to model for CoverGirl — released a 41-minute video explaining how a spat with a fellow influencer turned into accusations that Charles was a sexual predator.
The drama began when Tati Westbrook, a 37-year-old makeup reviewer and a mentor of Charles's, released a video earlier this month that made numerous accusations against Charles. The first was that Charles, as a friend and collaborator of Westbrook's, endorsed a rival's beauty product (vitamin hair gummies). From there, Westbrook's video touched upon other subjects, namely that Charles, 19, had a toxic prediliction for straight men.
Westbrook talked about a supposed encounter at a Seattle restaurant that "made me want to vomit," describing, without details, how Charles "tried to trick a straight man into thinking he's gay yet again." Westbrook said in her video, "It's really disgusting to manipulate someone's sexuality when they're still emerging into adulthood and don't quite have everything figured out. You are using your fame, your power, your money to play with people’s emotions and you’re doing that to have them behave sexually in your favor even if they’re straight. You know what, that’s not OK. And how dare you laugh about it and make meme after meme and retweet this and that and [say], 'I love straight boys, I love straight boys' and make it a joke. Because this behavior is not normal, it’s not OK. Cracking someone's sexuality is not an escape room."
Westbrook's video, the now-deleted "Bye Sister," attracted millions of views and media attention, and resulted in Charles losing millions of followers from his social media channels. Fellow makeup guru Jeffree Starr — who has faced his own criticism, but for racist verbiage not predatory behavior — got in on the action and claimed Westbrook's salacious accusations were true.
But Charles is now speaking out and saying that nearly all of Westbrook's claims are false and that her video unleashed an online mob happy to paint a gay man as a sexual predator.
"I’m a 19-year-old virgin," Charles says in the video, "No More Lies. "I would never use my fame, power, or money to get sexual actions from a guy. That is disgusting and it is not me."
Charles describes the aforementioned incident in Seattle, backing it up with screen shots of text messages and private Twitter conversations. Charles admits flirting with a restaurant employee named Sam and displays their initial Twitter conversation, which was initiated by Sam. The discussion was innocuous, with both describing how they had never been sexual with men, and Sam verifying he is "bi" — not straight.
“There was no straight man manipulated anywhere in this story," Charles says in the "No More Lies" video. "I would never out somebody, and I have never tried to manipulate somebody’s sexuality.”
The two 19-year-olds did end up meeting at Charles's hotel room, where they both admit to making out. Nowhere in the conversations displayed by Charles does Sam describe anything less than consensual. In fact, Charles later shows text messages where Sam apologizes for the scandal and says he will clear it up.
Charles also discusses how Swedish pop singer Zara Larsson damaged his career by claiming, after Westbrook uploaded "Bye Sister," that Charles sent several creepy private messages to her boyfriend, who is straight. Larsson later apologized for her tweet, saying she only discovered one private message, where Charles called her boyfriend "hot."
Charles says he has "slid into DMs" of men to compliment them, "but if they didn't want the attention or said they were straight, I always apologized."
"This situation has definitely taught me that sending messages that are so forward and direct are unacceptable," Charles says.
Charles describes the accusations of Westbrook, Larsson, and Starr in a larger context, saying they feed into notions that gay men are sex-obsessed and predatory.
"These stereotypes around gay men have been and continue to be very harmful to the community and have been historically used to villainize gay men," Charles says.
The influencer then discusses how he came out at 12 and never dated anyone during high school, as his straight friends did. Being out at a young age in a heteronormative world left him "underdeveloped as a person."
Charles closes the video by discussing how difficult this situation was for him mentally — the video includes hotlines for those with suicidal thoughts and those who experienced sexual assault — and how it's made him aware that he has to do better as a person. He also laments how "cancel culture is incredibly toxic." Watch his video below.